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Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Second Edition by David Pogue

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List View

In windows that contain a lot of icons, the list view is a powerful weapon in the battle against chaos. It shows you a tidy table of your files’ names, dates, sizes, and so on.

All of the usual file-manipulation tips apply in list view. For example, double- clicking a folder doesn’t open a new window (unless you’re also pressing the

List View

key). Instead, the contents of the folder you double-clicked replace the contents of the window, as described in Section 1.2.7.

You have complete control over your columns. You get to decide how wide they should be, which of them should appear, and in which order (except that Name is always the first column). Here’s how to master these columns:

Sorting the List

Most of the world’s list view fans like their files listed alphabetically. It’s occasionally useful, however, to view the newest files first, largest first, or whatever.

When a desktop window displays its icons in a list view, a convenient new strip of column headings appears (Figure 1-15). The column headings aren’t just signposts; they’re buttons, too. Click Name for alphabetical order, Date Modified to view newest first, Size to view largest files at the top, and so on. (You can no longer perform the same function using commands in the View menu or by Control-clicking inside a window, as you could in Mac OS 9.)

It’s especially important to note the tiny, dark gray triangle that appears in the column you’ve most recently clicked (Figure 1-15). It shows you which way the list is being sorted.

You control the sorting order of a list view by clicking the column headings (left). Click a second time to reverse the sorting order (right). You’ll find the identical triangle, indicating the identical information, in email programs, in Sherlock (Chapter 20), and anywhere else where reversing the sorting order of the list can be useful.

Figure 1-15. You control the sorting order of a list view by clicking the column headings (left). Click a second time to reverse the sorting order (right). You’ll find the identical triangle, indicating the identical information, in email programs, in Sherlock (Chapter 20), and anywhere else where reversing the sorting order of the list can be useful.

When the triangle points upward, oldest files, smallest files, or files beginning with numbers (or the letter A) appear at the top of the list, depending on which sorting criterion you have selected.

Note

It may help you to remember that when the smallest portion of the triangle is at the top, the smallest files are listed first when viewed in size order. (That’s a welcome change from the reversed logic of Mac OS 9 and earlier.)

To reverse the sorting order, just click the column heading a second time. Now newest files, largest files, or files beginning with the letter Z appear at the top of the list. The tiny triangle turns upside-down, as shown in Figure 1-15.

Note

You can also change the sorting order from the keyboard. Just press Control-Tab to highlight each successive column heading, sorting the list by that criterion in the process. Add the Shift key to move leftward through the column headings.

Flippy Triangles

One of the Mac’s most attractive features is the tiny triangle that appears to the left of a folder’s name in a list view. In its official documents, Apple calls these buttons disclosure triangles; internally, the programmers call them flippy triangles.

Either way, these triangles are very useful: When you click one, you turn the list view into an outline, in which the contents of the folder are displayed in an indented list, as shown in Figure 1-16. Click the triangle again to collapse the folder listing. You’re saved the trouble and clutter of having to open a new window just to view the folder’s contents.

By selectively clicking flippy triangles, you can, in effect, peer inside two or more folders simultaneously, all within a single list view window. You can move files around by dragging them onto the tiny folder icons.

Note

Once you’ve expanded a folder by clicking its flippy triangle, you can even drag a file icon out of its folder, so that it’s loose in the list view window. To do so, drag it directly upward onto the column headings area (where it says Name, for example). When you release the mouse, you’ll see that the file is no longer inside the expanded folder.

Click a “flippy triangle” (left) to see the list of the folders and files inside that folder (right). Or press the equivalent keystrokes: -right arrow (to open) and -left arrow (to close).

Figure 1-16. Click a “flippy triangle” (left) to see the list of the folders and files inside that folder (right). Or press the equivalent keystrokes: Click a “flippy triangle” (left) to see the list of the folders and files inside that folder (right). Or press the equivalent keystrokes: -right arrow (to open) and -left arrow (to close).-right arrow (to open) and Click a “flippy triangle” (left) to see the list of the folders and files inside that folder (right). Or press the equivalent keystrokes: -right arrow (to open) and -left arrow (to close).-left arrow (to close).

Which Columns Appear

Choose ViewShow View Options. In the palette that appears, you’re offered on/off checkboxes for the different columns of information Mac OS X can show you, as shown in Figure 1-17.

  • Date Modified. This date-and-time stamp indicates when a document was last saved. Its accuracy, of course, depends on the accuracy of your Mac’s built-in clock (see Section 8.3).

The checkboxes you turn on in the View Options dialog box determine which columns of information appear in a list view window. Most people live full and satisfying lives with only the three default columns—Date Modified, Kind, and Size—turned on. But the other columns can be helpful in special circumstances; the trick is knowing what information appears there.

Figure 1-17. The checkboxes you turn on in the View Options dialog box determine which columns of information appear in a list view window. Most people live full and satisfying lives with only the three default columns—Date Modified, Kind, and Size—turned on. But the other columns can be helpful in special circumstances; the trick is knowing what information appears there.

Note

Many an up-to-date file has been lost because a Mac user spotted a very old date on a folder and assumed that the files inside were equally old. That’s because the modification date shown for a folder doesn’t reflect the age of its contents. Instead, the date on a folder indicates only when items were last moved into or out of that folder. The actual files inside may be much older, or much more recent.

  • Date Created. This date-and-time stamp shows you when a document was first saved.

  • Size. With a glance, you can tell from this column how much disk space each of your files and folders is taking up in kilobytes, megabytes, or gigabytes—whichever the Mac thinks you’ll find most helpful. (There are 1,024 kilobytes in a megabyte.)

    Note

    For disks and folders, you see only a dash—at first. You can, however, force the Mac to show you their sizes, as described on the facing page.

  • Kind. In this column, you can read what kind of icon each item represents. You may see, for example, Folder, JPEG document, Application, and so on.

  • Version. This column displays the version numbers of your programs. For folders and documents, you just see a dash.

  • Comments. This rarely seen column can actually be among the most useful. Suppose that you’re a person who uses the Comments feature (highlight an icon, choose FileGet Info, type notes about that item into the Comments box). The option to view the first line of comments about each icon can be very helpful, especially when tracking multiple versions of your documents, as shown in Figure 1-18.

    Note

    Unfortunately, the systems for storing comments are different in Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. When you run Mac OS X, you won’t see the icon comments you added in Mac OS 9, and vice versa.

The Comments column is often worth turning on. If your monitor is big enough, you can make the Comments column wide enough to show several paragraphs of text, all in a single line—enough to reveal the full life history of each icon. Or you can simply use the Comments window as you once used Labels in Mac OS 9.

Figure 1-18. The Comments column is often worth turning on. If your monitor is big enough, you can make the Comments column wide enough to show several paragraphs of text, all in a single line—enough to reveal the full life history of each icon. Or you can simply use the Comments window as you once used Labels in Mac OS 9.

Other View Options

The View Options for a list view include several other useful settings (choose ViewShow View Options, or press

Other View Options

-J). As always, be sure to click either “All windows” or “This window only” before closing the window, so that your changes will have the scope of effect that you intended.

  • Icon Size. These two buttons offer you a choice of standard icon size for the current window. You can choose standard size or tiny size; unlike icon view, list view doesn’t give you a size slider.

    Even so, Mac OS X improves on Mac OS 9 in this regard: Thanks to the much more powerful graphics software, the tiny icons aren’t so small that they show up blank. You still get a general idea of what they’re supposed to look like.

  • Text size. As described in Section 1.4, you can change the type size for your icon labels, either globally or one window at a time.

  • Show columns. Turn on the columns you’d like to appear in the current window’s list view, as described in the previous section.

  • Use relative dates. In a list view, the Date Modified and Date Created columns generally display information in a format like this: “Saturday, February 2, 2003.” (As noted below, the Mac uses shorter date formats as the column gets narrower.) But when the “Use relative dates” option is turned on, the Mac substitutes the word “Yesterday” or “Today” where appropriate, making recent files easier to spot.

  • Calculate all sizes. See Calculate All Sizes.

Rearranging Columns

You’re stuck with the Name column at the far left of a window. But you can rearrange the other columns just by dragging their gray column headers horizontally. If the Mac thinks you intend to drop a column to, say, the left of the column it overlaps, you’ll actually see an animated movement even before you release the mouse button, as the Mac reshuffles the columns.

Adjusting Column Widths

Place your cursor carefully on the dividing line between two column headings. When the cursor sprouts horizontal arrows from each side, you can drag horizontally. Doing so makes the column to the left of your cursor wider or narrower.

What’s delightful about this activity is watching Mac OS X scramble to rewrite its information to fit the space you give it. For example, as you make the Date Modified (or Created) column narrower, “Sunday, February 2, 2003, 2:22 PM” shrinks first to “Sun, Feb 2, 2003, 2:22 PM,” to “2/2/03, 2:22 PM,” and finally to the terse “2/2/03.”

If you make a column too narrow, Mac OS X shortens the file names, dates, or whatever by removing text from the middle. An ellipsis (...) appears to show you where the missing text would have appeared. (Apple reasoned that truncating the ends of file names, as in previous versions of the Mac OS, would hide useful information like the number at the end of “Letter to Marge 1,” “Letter to Marge 2,” and so on. It would also hide the three-letter extensions, such as Thesis.doc, that may appear on file names in Mac OS X.)

For example, suppose you’ve named a Word document “Madonna—A Major Force for Humanization and Cure for Depression, Acne, and Migraine Headache.” (Yes, file names can really be that long.) If the Name column is too narrow, you might see only “Madonna—A Major...Migraine Headache.”

Note

You don’t have to make the column mega-wide just to read the full text of a file whose name has been shortened. Just point to the icon’s name without clicking. After a moment, a yellow, floating balloon appears—something like a tooltip in Microsoft programs—to identify the full name.

And if you don’t feel like waiting, hold down the Option key. As you whip your mouse over truncated file names, their tooltip balloons appear instantaneously. (Both of these tricks work in any view—icon, list, or column.)

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